Redefining life’s family trees

A new method for analysing genetic data shows that the relationship between living species, from bacteria to plants and animals, differs to what researchers had believed to be the case. For example, certain plants and animals appear to have developed later than previously thought.

By studying the DNA building blocks from organisms’ genes (genomes), researchers can tell how species developed and are related to each other. An image can then be produced showing the development of life on earth, from the simplest forms of life to animals and humans. To draw up family trees, researchers generally study the building blocks (nucleotides) that make up organisms’ DNA.

“Until now, the assumption has been that these genetic building blocks develop independently,” says Daniele Silvestro, a senior researcher at the University of Gothenburg and one of the authors of the new study published in the journal PNAS. “But this often isn’t true. In many cases, the change in one DNA building block is followed by an adjustment in another building block in order for functions to be maintained in the organism.”

Link to full article: New model gives a more consistent estimates of species origination and extinction